Home » Indoor Gardening » Snake Plant Root Rot, Treatment, Signs + Prevention

Snake Plant Root Rot, Treatment, Signs + Prevention

One of the reasons why snake plants die is root rot. It is one of the common problems that your Dracaena trifasciata may face at one point in time. Having firsthand signs can help you save the houseplant.

Root rot is more of a condition than a disease. Notably, because it tends to develop from growing and multiplying soil fungus or bacteria. Under the influence of triggers, the growth of these soil funguses/bacteria can be favored by specific conditions. For houseplants, these conditions are commonly attributed to prolonged exposure of roots to sogginess.

Can you tell if and when your mother-in-law’s tongue is developing root rot and not a different growth issue? Can you save Dracaena trifasciata from dying? What can you do to prevent future cases?

Will your Dracaena trifasciata get Root Rot?

All varieties of snake plants are prone to root rot. However, your houseplant will not always develop root rot until you have ‘predisposed’ it. For instance, an overlooked snake plant is more likely to get this condition.

So here are the growth and care issues or conditions that may lead to rotting snake plants.

Poor Rooting Medium

A poorly composed soil/mix will most likely lead to water or watering issues. Regardless of perfect watering, any of the following qualities of soil will impact drainage.

  • Poorly aerated soil
  • Easy-to-compact fine particles or ingredients
  • Heavy soil mixes

Overly-size Plant Vessel

A larger and oversized pot for housing your plant means that:

  • You are likely to saturate the rooting medium
  • Slower water evaporation or moisture loss

Contamination and Transfer

Handling your outdoor plants can contaminate your hands or gardening tools. This may lead to the transfer of fungus or bacteria to those indoors.

Other Issues

  • Poor draining planters/pots
  • Habitual watering

Signs that your Snake Plant has Root Rot

  • Multiple snake plant leaves drooping persistently
  • Tinged spots on leaves
  • Snake plant leaves turning brown and soft
  • Brown mushy and smelly roots
  • Unfamiliar smells emanate from the pots

Keep in mind that yellow leaves may be an early signal of root rot. Aside from that, it could mean you have a snake plant that’s being underwatered. Or else, it could be a sign of pest infestation.

Read more on: Why are my snake plant leaves curling?

Those signs on leaves may not be enough to confirm root rot itself. And the earlier you can detect the easier you can save your house plant from dying.

Can you save your Dying Houseplant?

Saving your root rot snake plant is practical and easy. This, however, will be determined by a few things including the stress level and health condition.

Getting to know the clear conditions of the roots is another crucial step. You will want to be optimistic about the whole revival procedure. Look at the roots and feel them too. Healthy ones should look white and feel crusty.

When you Can’t Save your Houseplant

Your stressed houseplant will enter a ‘no-recovery’ phase in a few days. This means it would eventually die regardless of your efforts to revive it. Take note of the following signs.

  • Limp, squishy leaves
  • Brown spots on the foliage
  • Leaves flopping over, especially for the varieties with vertical foliage
  • Presence of fungus gnats in the pot
  • A nasty smell emanating from within the pot

You can successfully go through the saving procedures but your plant may not be in a revivable state. In other words, it is beyond being savable.

(Throughout the steps, you’ll determine whether yours is savable or not.)

Nonetheless, never despair. Sometimes the signs of root rot are not so clear, but there is hope. That is, there is a chance you can have yours come back to life.

Saving Snake Plant with Root Rot

Here are easy-to-follow steps to save your houseplant from dying.

Step 1: Preps

Go through your household item list and ensure you have the following requirements:

  • Pair of sharp scissors or trimmers
  • Hand gloves
  • New 1.8 – 2.0 new pots with working drainage
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Piece of clean cloth
  • Fresh potting mix

Hold your snake plant by its base and carefully slide it out of the current vessel. Have a close look at the roots as well as the stems.

Step 2: Check the Plant Roots

In this step, you do not want to hurt the stressed plant. Gently, brush off excess soil from the roots.

 After you have the root ball thoroughly cleaned, start checking for rot.

  • Spare any roots that feel springy but firm enough to resist when you press them
  • Leave the ones with a white, tan, or orange appearance

Step 3: Cut off the Affected Parts

At this point, you will be able to tell whether or not you’ll possibly have your houseplant saved.

  • Completely remove the roots with mushiness and brownness
  • Trim the pale and soft (mushy) leaves

If you find that you are removing pretty much all roots they’re not near the revival status. Consider saving a few leaves for propagation.

Remember to disinfect and clean your tools after use in every step.

Step 4: Treat Healthy Roots

After having removed unhealthy parts, briefly dunk the remaining roots into a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Rinse them thereafter for the last step below.

Step 5: Replant the Healthy Rhizomes

Pot size tips to prevent Dracaena trifasciata root rot
A smaller-sized pot with saved mother-in-law’s tongue

Prepare a light potting mix. Using a new smaller pot, combine 2 handfuls of perlite base and a handful of peat moss coconut coir to top up. Then replant the saved plant. Moisten the potting soil and situate it in a warm and bright room.

You may want to offer super aeration and easy root growth. So avoid course sand, ground soil, and soil mixes. 

Post-saving Care Tips

After having saved your snake plant from dying, you want to make sure it is comfortable. Observe and follow up with these tips to increase the chances of it getting back.

  • Keep the warmth in the environment surrounding the plant at about 60 F degrees
  • Water sparingly but never saturate the pot
  • Never apply any fertilizers or plant food until new shoots have grown
  • Avoid direct sunlight for the next few (at least 2 – 3) weeks

If the signs of root rot were really bad, it might take at least 14 days or longer for it to begin to regenerate. Had you identified root rot in time, 7 days or so are enough for it to begin revival.

Unfortunately, if it takes anything longer than a month don’t have hope of your plant reviving.

Snake Plant Root rot Fixes (Preventive Tips)

The easiest way to fix root rot in snake plants is when you’re repotting it. Often monitoring your plant for growth issues is another cheap fix. To help your plant evade future root rot cases, here’s what you need to do.

Rooting Medium Selection

Go for well-draining and super-aerating commercial mixes or blends. I prefer an organically composed mix. Look for:

  • Composted bark
  • Coconut coir
  • 100% perlite

Loamy mixes and alkalinity are also considerable qualities. And go for less acidic mixes (5.5 – 7.0 on a PH scale).

Water Quality and Watering

Use a measuring cup but more importantly consider the growing season. During the summer and spring, wait until the top 2 inches of pot soil has completely dried out before watering. Increase the period between watering during the winter and cold months.

Use mineral-free water. You can use filtered or rainwater after it has settled at household room temperature. Optionally, if you have to rely on tap water, allow it to sit for at least 24 hours at household temperature.

Pot Drainage and Size

Use small-sized pots with working drainage. Select ones with a saucer so that after watering you dump them before replacing the pots. You can also make more drainage holes.

Alternatively, add a 1-inch thick layer of clean gravel to serve as the bottom layer of your pot.


These resilient succulents add visual appeal to our indoor living rooms, bedrooms, office tables, et cetera. There is something special about having them around in our homes. Thanks to their numerous benefits.

As far as root rot is a common snake plant problem, too much water is its weakness. Follow those simple tips to aid your houseplant to evade root rot.

Sources and References

  1. Mother-in-law’s tongue. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/Dracaena-trifasciata. Accessed online July 5, 2022
  2. ALL ABOUT SNAKE PLANTS. SWANSON’S NURSERY. https://www.swansonsnursery.com/blog/snake-plant. Accessed online July 5, 2022

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.